Adding compost to your garden is the single best soil amendment for your garden. This article describes how to turn vegetable scraps from your kitchen and waste from your garden into valuable compost.
The idea of composting
Compost, or 'humus', is the result of bacteria, fungi, microbes, earthworms, snails and slugs eating the materials in your compost container. Composting is very environmentally friendly because it removes organic waste from the public waste stream and converts it into a valuable soil amendment.
Sources of compost
Organic matter for compost comes in two general forms: fresh, green material and brown, woody matter.
Compost your weeds, too
All the discarded leafy materials, including weeds (as long as their flowers have not yet produced seeds) from your garden can be added to your compost pile.
Operating your composter
A composter runs on your continuously feeding your compost pile a portion of the green materials and the woody materials with water, and oxygen. You are trying to create a mix of approximately 30 parts woody materials with 1 part green materials, and adding some water to keep the mix moist (but not saturated) inside your compost container. Nature is forgiving: if your compost contains slightly more or slightly less dry materials, it will work too. Avoid green or woody materials that have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.
You might be surprised how quickly your compost compacts and how often you will need to add more green and woody materials to the top of your compost pile, as the lower layers decompose.
Locating and sizing your composter
Locate your compost container on a level location on soil, convenient to your garden. Whether you are using a shop-bought plastic bin or a homemade, screen-frame composter, you will need an area about 1x2 metres, for a start. As your compost pile matures the area around it will benefit, the soil becoming richer there, too.
Care and feeding
A compost pile must be kept moist, but not soggy for efficient decomposition. The plastic bin composter only needs you to feed it from the top and the decomposition process does the rest eventually creating humus at the bottom. Screen-framed composters, on the other hand, need to have their contents turned, usually weekly to even out the decomposition.
Vegetables only, please!
Only add vegetable and fruit waste, coffee grounds and egg shells from your kitchen and garden to your compost – no meat, cheese, butter, bones or fat. These will slow the decomposition and attract rodents and varmints.
It will take a year or longer for your compost to become totally free of leftover particles, which you can screen out. Particles less than a finger width wide are fine for the garden. Compost is ready to use when it has turned black, has a neutral earthy smell and its temperature is slightly above air temperature.
Article provided by: